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Mauritania's President Headed for Re-Election - 2003-11-08

Provisional results are coming in after Mauritania's presidential election and President Maaouiya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya is heading for another victory.

Dressed in the flowing white robes and sitting under a framed picture of President Ould Taya, Interior Minister Sidi Yesslem Ould Amar Cheine read out the provisional results from Friday's presidential election.

Around 80 percent of the votes have been collected, and so far, incumbent President Ould Taya has a 64 percent share. The turnout was put at 60 percent.

It appears unlikely that the remaining 20 percent of the votes that have yet to be counted will tip the balance. President Ould Taya's supporters have victory in sight.

Mr. Ould Taya's closest contender was former president Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidallah, who won nearly 20 percent of the voted counted so far.

But these early results indicate a second round of voting will not be necessary and that President Ould Taya has won more than the 50 percent of votes necessary to claim an outright victory.

President Ould Taya has ruled Mauritania for 20 years. But democratic principles were not adopted until the 1990s in a country where around 50 percent of its people live on less than $1 a day.

If he has indeed won, this will be Mr. Ould Taya's third term in office.

The closing days of the election campaign in Mauritania has been marked by allegations of rigging and irregularities.

Mr. Ould Haidallah, who at this stage is Mr. Ould Taya's closest contender for the top job, was arrested briefly only days before voting day amid allegations of plotting to stage a coup.

Mr. Ould Haidallah has denied the accusations and says it was part of a government plan to slur his name ahead of the polls.

There have been no international or national election observers in Mauritania to monitor these elections. Opposition parties are expected to contest the final result.